The agricultural pesticide chlorpyrifos, which escaped being banned nationally a couple of years ago, soon won’t be legally available in New York or Hawaii.

In 2018, Hawaii enacted legislation to ban chlorpyrifos beginning in 2022. Now, the New York Senate and Assembly have approved legislation that will ban chlorpyrifos from the Empire State beginning in 2021.

The New York legislation, which will prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos by aerial application as of Jan. 2, 2020, prohibits all use of the chemical except on apple tree trunks by Jan. 1, 2021. It also will prohibit any use of chlorpyrifos by Dec. 1, 2021. The bill will likely be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt two years ago reversed the agency’s decision to impose a national ban on the pesticide sought by the departing Obama administration. At that time, Pruitt said the EPA needed to provide regulatory certainty for American agriculture. He said farms that rely on chlorpyrifos do so while protecting human health and the environment.

Chlorpyrifos was first registered for use in the United States by Dow Chemical in 1965  to control leafage and ground insects. It was used extensively on residential lawns and golf course turf as a structural termite control agent. Banned from home use in the United States for about 17 years now, it is still allowed for agriculture uses so long as label instructions are followed.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides in the world. New York State apple growers are among the agricultural users, and they will get extended time for tree trunk applications. New York is second only to Washington state for apple production.

In defending the proposed national ban, outgoing Obama administration officials pointed to research that suggested farm workers and children, if exposed, are put at unnecessary risk.

Chlorpyrifos exposure can lead to developmental issues in children, according to some studies. Those have been “correlational studies,” meaning they don’t provide causal links. Causal links between chlorpyrifos and developmental issues in rodents do exist.

But, correlations between chlorpyrifos and developmental issues in children remain to be documented. Research does show chlorpyrifos poses a threat to human health, but the question remains whether that concern should warrant a complete ban of the insecticide.

Those who worked for it, see the ban in New York as a “major victory for human health.” Tyler Smith, an Earthjustice staff scientist, said “today, the New York Legislature decided not to wait on Donald Trump to protect children from a brain-damaging pesticide.”

In addition to the widespread use to control pests in human food and animal feed crops, products with chlorpyrifos in them are used on golf courses and used for public health purposes in controlling mosquitoes and fire ants. Products containing chlorpyrifos are also used to treat wood fences and utility poles to combat termites and extend the life of the wood.

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